Chicago Bulls (8-2) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (3-6)
[table "1" not found /]
Last game: Minnesota: L, 97-87 vs Toronto, Chicago: W, 92-68 vs Detroit
The Timberwolves could not seem to find the range from anywhere last night, missing layups, threes, mid-range jumpers, and free throws with abandon. They also couldn’t stop Andrea Bargnani (ugh), who went off for a season high 31 points. Minnesota fell to the Raptors by 10, leaving fans wondering what might have happened if just a couple more shots had fallen.
The Bulls ripped into Detroit the same way they have been ripping into every other team this year. Chicago’s starters got a lot of rest (thanks a lot, Detroit) as they stretched their record to 8-2, second best in the Eastern Conference.
Bulls: Richard Hamilton (questionable) groin, CJ Watson (out) dislocated elbow
Minnesota: Malcolm Lee (out) torn meniscus
The Key Questions
#1. What happened to Kevin Love yesterday?
3-16 from the field and 5-10 from the line are not Kevin Love numbers. Those are Michael Beasley in a Kevin Love suit numbers. (That joke hurt to write, so I hope you enjoyed it.) Love will matched up with Carlos Boozer today, who by rights SHOULD be more difficult than Amir Johnson. But Boozer is a mediocre rebounder, meaning Love might be able to body his way into the paint and get some easy put backs on offense. Boozer also might struggle trying to get out and guard Love from behind the arc. OPTIMISM!
#2. How many minutes will JJ Barea play?
Barea’s minutes had to be limited under doctor’s orders, right? Because he was literally the only player on the court for Minnesota who could create his own shot against Toronto. The Wolves will desperately need him tonight, especially if Bulls’ shooting guard Rip Hamilton is out.
#3. Will returning home help the Wolves shooting percentage?
You’ve heard the grisly numbers from the Toronto game, but even against Washington, some Wolves’ players struggled from the field. Love was under 50%, Rubio was 5-14, and Williams was 5-12. Wes Johnson did Wes Johnson-y things, going 2-8. Perhaps playing at home will help restore Minnesota’s confidence.
The Key Matchups
The Bulls are an absolute matchup nightmare for Minnesota.
Will the Wolves score more than 60 tonight? Because the offense has seriously struggled against every team not named Washington, and the Bulls give up the second fewest points per 100 possessions in the league. This could get really ugly, especially if Minnesota runs Luke Ridnour at the point for extended minutes. Ridnour has a lot of good qualities, but moving the ball against a good defense will be a struggle for him.
We covered Kevin Love/Carlos Boozer above, but Love might have to take some Joakim Noah duty as well when the Wolves go with their small ball lineup. Noah doesn’t score a ton( 7.3 ppg so far this season) but on defense, he will give Love fits.
Wes Johnson’s defense last night was solid, but tonight he’ll be matched up against a much more physical Luol Deng. Poor Wes. His confidence in his jumper seems to be completely gone, and it’s hard to blame him…that thing hasn’t been falling at all.
And I haven’t even mentioned Derrick Rose yet. Again, Ridnour will get killed by Rose. Ricky Rubio has shown he can really move his feet well against faster point guards, but he hasn’t faced an athletic point guard as skilled as Rose yet, which will be an interesting test.
Hey guys, teams on the third night of a back to back to back are undefeated so far this season! And the Bulls played last night! MORE OPTIMISM!
Maybe someone else feels better about this game than I do, but the best case scenario I can realistically predict is another moral victory of 8 points or less. And even in that case, it feels like everything would have to go right for the Wolves.
Tell your children to avert their eyes.